Alabama vs. Georgia preview: Making the statistical case for the Crimson Tide, Bulldogs to win the national championship
The fourth installment of the national championship game during the College Football Playoff era kicks off Monday with SEC foes Alabama and Georgia sharing the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
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We looked into the numbers to find statistical reasons why Alabama and Georgia can win the national championship.
The case for Alabama might be the easier one to make, at least at face value. In addition to having three years of experience playing in the College Football Playoff, the Crimson Tide rank higher nationally in total offense, total defense, scoring offense and scoring defense. There isn't a sizable difference in some of those statistical categories but Alabama has the edge in terms of points scored, points allowed, yards gained, yards allowed.
The Crimson Tide also benefit from rarely hurting themselves. Alabama is tied for 21st nationally in penalty yards per game (40.6) and it's tied for fifth in turnover margin at plus-13. More times than not, the Crimson Tide are going to win the turnover battle. They forced 22 turnovers this season while committing just nine of their own.
Here's a look at some major statistics that favor Alabama:
- Scoring offense: 37.9 points per game (Georgia: 36.3 ppg)
- Total offense: 449.7 yards per game (Georgia: 440.3 ypg)
- Passing offense: 193.9 yards per game (Georgia: 172.9 ypg)
- Scoring defense: 11.1 points per game (Georgia: 15.7 ppg)
- Total defense: 252.4 yards allowed per game (Georgia: 289.5 ypg)
- Passing defense: 160.6 yards allowed per game (Georgia: 167.6 ypg)
- Rushing defense: 91.7 yards allowed per game (Georgia: 121.8 ypg)
- Penalties: 4.9 penalties per game/40.6 yards per game (Georgia: 6.4 penalties per game/55.0 yards per game)
- Turnover margin: +13 (Georgia: +5)
- 4th down conversions: 82.35% (Georgia: 58.33%)
The case for Georgia revolves around the Bulldogs' explosive rushing attack, which is coming off of a Rose Bowl performance in which Sony Michel and Nick Chubb ran for 326 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 13 yards per carry. Georgia had 20 more plays of at least 20 yards this season than Alabama and the Bulldogs hold on to the ball for an average of three minutes more per game than the Crimson Tide, so Georgia can both move the ball and eat up clock effectively on the ground. When the 'Dawgs get into the red zone, they're almost guaranteed to score. They're tied for fourth in red zone conversions at 96.2 percent, scoring touchdowns more than 71 percent of the time and kicking field goals on almost a quarter of their red zone trips.
Georgia also has an advantage on special teams, at least on paper. The Bulldogs average longer returns on kickoffs and punts, and they've averaged longer punts than the Crimson Tide. The biggest difference on special teams, however, is in the two teams' kicking accuracy on field goals. Georgia is tied for seventh nationally in field goal percentage (85.7 percent), while Alabama has converted on 70.8 percent of its tries. Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship made a career-long 55-yard field goal at the end of the first half of the Rose Bowl, as well as a 38-yarder in overtime. The Bulldogs' kicking game could prove to be the difference in a tightly contested matchup.
Here's a look at some major statistics that favor Georgia:
- Rushing offense: 267.3 yards per game (Alabama: 255.7 ypg)
- Time of possession: 33:04 (Alabama: 30:01)
- 3rd down conversions: 46.02% (Alabama: 42.07%)
- Red zone conversions: 96.23% (Alabama: 87.3%)
- Plays of at least 20 yards: 86 (Alabama: 66)
- Field goal accuracy: 85.7% (Alabama: 70.8%)
- Punt returns: 9.58 yards per return (Alabama: 7.97 yards per return)
- Kick returns: 24.87 yards per return (Alabama: 22.00 yards per return)